Tales From The Road – Travel Nanny Tips From Shirley Roberts

Think you have what it takes to be an Adventure Nanny? New York City – based travel nanny extraordinaire, Shirley Roberts was kind enough to offer some tips to future travel nannies and families that she’s picked up along the way. Fluent in both English and German, Shirley has worked in countries around the globe.

What are three things that make being a travel nanny different than a long-term nanny?

The most crucial difference is that you have much less time to create a bond between you and the children. Having being a long-term nanny, I can say from my own experience that it’s almost impossible not to get attached to the children, when it’s a long-term commitment. Traveling in short duration with a family makes this special kind of attachment unattainable; with very few exceptions. As a travel nanny you also don’t have a regular and “normal” schedule, so every day presents different challenges, as well as new and adventurous experiences with the children. Lastly, I would say that being a travel nanny impacts your personal life on a deeper level than being a long-term nanny in one place, due to your need of flexibility and independence for these positions. The expectations are different simply different for being a nanny on the road, so to speak


Which of your personality traits come in handy when out on the road?

The biggest asset is my love and appreciation for traveling, as well as the ability to adapt to new environments and situations very quickly. It’s important to always be prepared for last minute changes when things don’t go as planned, and keep your cool during that process.

What is your process for researching great kid-friendly activities when traveling to a place you haven’t been before

I believe that most places offer a ton of unique, kid-friendly activities that often aren’t listed online, so the best to learn about them is asking the locals! However, my research usually starts a week before traveling, to allow myself ample time, and leave room for changes/additional ideas, if they happen to come up. I start by doing a basic research, then I create a semi-flexible schedule/to-do list, and upon arrival, and getting to know the area a little bit, I like to ask for personal suggestions from people living and working there. It’s especially helpful to learn about the nearest playgrounds, and interactive museums; geared towards children.


What should a travel nanny always have in their backpack?

To guarantee a smooth sailing when traveling (or as much as this is even possible), I would highly recommend to always carry band-aids, plenty of snacks, and water/milk for the little explorers, as I like to call them. With that, you are off to a good start!

Many travel positions are only a week or two long. How do you speed up the adjustment period to make the most out of your time with a family?

Finding out everyone’s interests, concerns, or even expectations, is crucial to make the best out of a short travel experience with a new family. 

The kids loved trying this new dish – a German “Germknoedel”.

What are your top three on-the-road activities to do with your nanny kids?

My top three are quite traditional in this day and age, since I don’t believe in giving young children iPads or smart phones for keeping busy. The first thing I love to do with them is find topics, and create fictional stories around these topics. Everyone gets a turn, if they are old enough, and for the very young ones it’s simply a nice way to hear new and exciting stories! They are usually no longer than a few minutes each. Secondly, I like to sing songs with them and talk about it afterwards. I try to ask questions, such as “What was the song about, and did we maybe even learn something from it”? Lastly, I like to play an old childhood game of mine called “I see something that you don’t see”. For this, the kids have to use their surroundings and it’s a great way for younger ones to learn their colors. You pick something in a specific color and say “I see something that you don’t see and it is… (fill in the color the object etc. has). Then the kids have to guess what it is. You can be as creative as you want to be with this game!

What advice would you give a nanny who would like to become a travel nanny?

To state the obvious, you have to love traveling! After that, everything tends to fall in its right place. My advice is simply to enjoy the moments you will have with the families, because everyone one of them is unique and special. If you haven’t already acquired this quality, learn to be ready to adapt and face new experiences every day. Be open-minded and willing to learn as much as possible along the way, which will help you in your future adventures. If you have decided to become a travel nanny, then I think you picked one of the best and most rewarding professions! It truly is amazing, each and every time.


Shirley in Vienna, Austria